God Bless America

God Bless America

Postby CAP » Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:22 am

Could more accurately have been titled God Damn America. This is a brisk little black comedy about a middle-aged, middle management divorcee, who is fired for sending the receptionist flowers to her home, only to learn he has a terminal brain tumour. Living with unbearably noisy neighbours and shunned by his spoilt brat of a daughter, he contemplates suicide but then decides to go on a killing spree eliminating all the rude and mean people he has encountered, mostly via television. Along the way he meets a perky high school girl also deeply alienated and they form an unlikely alliance. The course of the film is really just various occasions for either character to launch into clever tirades against current morality and social mores before wasting suitable victims. The ending is inevitable – a Bonne & Clyde/Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid shootout where they go down guns blazing.

Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is better known as an edgy comedian with a distinctive high comic voice and the many perfectly staged one-liners attest to his native idiom. This is really to be balanced against two nagging faults to the film’s scope and narrative structure. Firstly, the many insults and abuses that fire the hero to vengeance remain curiously disengaged from wider political or ideological causes. Morality here is treated in an unconvincing vacuum. For one taking aim at a decadent and disgusting America, the buck unfairly remains with those on its lowest rungs. Secondly, the delicate partnership between the older man and teenage girl ultimately undercuts the story’s moral outrage. This is ultimately a male mid-life crisis flick where a displaced dad suddenly realises he doesn’t understand the younger generation, its miserable television or entertainments, its blithe disregard for common courtesy or privacy and takes revenge in exactly the terms that appal him about the American public. He guns down his victims in just the petulant, arbitrary way that contestants on reality TV shows conduct themselves and are judged. The film more profitably might have traced this ‘race to the bottom’ through steady corruption via media alliances, manipulations.

Then there is the central relationship between a much older man and - an admittedly - worldly teenage girl. This too is really a middle-aged male fantasy – finding new virility in a gun and attracting the opposite sex at their most attractive and vulnerable. Goldthwait takes pains to make the relationship achingly correct, but this is all part of the ego stroking, resisting temptation if only to tacitly acknowledge the magnitude of the temptation. He is just ‘an uncle’, right? The wild swings at Nabokov are just contempt - not suppressed envy - aren’t they? Yeah Bob – puritanical strength! For a film deeply vigilante by inclination it would have made more sense (and fun) to see the forward girl gradually seduce him and for him to shed his last taboo and recognise her as a person and not an age demographic – for them then to call a halt to their death spree, only to be gunned down by the pursuing law. Yeah! But that’s the problem with morality plays, up close the lines blur, the story falls apart.

Anyway I give it a 6. There are You Tubes here and here. A NYT review here, Goldthwait’s Wiki page here.
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